You’re at a networking event, dressed to impress, but you just can’t seem to muster up the courage to walk up to someone and introduce yourself. It seems that everyone around you is having riveting conversations while you’re still trying to come up with something to say.
Don’t fret! Networking isn’t rocket science and you’re not alone in this situation. The simple way to start conversations is to think of easy openings that you can use. We’ve come up with a list of 10 conversation starters you can use at your next networking event to give you the confidence to make a new connection.
“Hi, I’m so-and-so.”
Sometimes it’s that simple! By saying who you are, you’re encouraging the other person to reciprocate and tell you about themselves. This is a great way to get your foot in the door and start a hopefully enriching conversation. Make sure the conversation is balanced, and each of you gets a fair amount of time to speak. Show that you are truly interested in what the other person has to say and, when appropriate, ask insightful questions based on their comments.
“I really like your…”
Flattery will get you everywhere! You’ll find that openers that compliment an outfit or accessory will pave the way to a connection forged in positivity. People are likely to warm up to you if you are perceived as kind and open. However, careful not to pile on too many compliments. One or two are great, but constant praise may make the person uncomfortable and cause you to come off as fake.
“Where are you from?”
Maybe you’re from the same place, or that person lives in your dream city. Either way, this is a great opportunity to use a specific place to find similarities. Leverage this question as a way to build trust and familiarity. Use your roots as a segue between where you come from and where you want to be in the future.
“Mind if I join?”
If you don’t feel like a one-on-one, try to find a group to join. Three is the magic number – that way, you’re not stepping on anyone’s toes in a two-person group, and you also won’t get lost in the sea of voices that comes with larger groups. There’s no pressure on you to immediately respond, and you’re free to put in your two cents at your own pace. This is also a great chance to introduce yourself to several people at once, and link up with later on in the event with those who interested you the most. Just say, “Hi, we were both in the same group earlier and I was hoping for a chance to chat with you one-on-one.”
“What do you enjoy the most about your line of work?”
This is the best way to give someone the opportunity to speak about something they’re passionate about. By being engaged with their passion, you will become associated with a positive feeling, and they will remember your interest the next time they think of this topic. This is also a chance for you to gain insight about what there is to look forward to in this field and be encouraged to pursue a passion of your own.
“How did you get into the industry?”
In other words, what do you need to do to get to where they are? Inside information like this is very valuable. It’s true that your circumstances may not be the same, but it often helps to hear about someone else’s success journey. You might get an idea of what it takes to move up, or just be assured that it is possible to get to where you want to go because there’s someone out there who’s accomplished it.
“Who was your favorite speaker?”
Ask this question, or really any question regarding the event you’re at. Other variations may be, “Have you tried this food? It’s amazing!” or “Have you been to this particular event before?” This will help you find common ground with that person. It’s quite easy to carry on a conversation this way because you’re at the same event. Though you might be tempted to crack a joke or complain about something, try to keep the mood positive. You never know who you’re speaking to and you may accidentally end up insulting that person in your attempt to be funny.
“Who is someone at this event that you’d love to speak to?”
Connect that person with the topic they represent and see if this is something you are also interested in. You can approach that in two ways. First, you can extend that topic into a great conversation. Next, this may be a good indication of someone to put on your radar to expand your network even further. Go the extra mile and introduce the person you spoke to initially with the one they were hoping to meet, and you will be remembered for your thoughtfulness.
“What trends do you see happening in this industry in the future?”
Not only will this give you insight of what to expect in the years to come, but it may also serve as a hint for necessary skills you should pick up. This question can also offer a summary of the event you’re attending if it’s industry specific. Compare the answer you receive with your projection of industry trends and gain a comprehensive viewpoint of the industry. At your next interview, you also may be able to dazzle your interviewer with your insight!
“What is your view on (an event in the news)?”
If all else fails, bring up a topic that will discuss itself! Prepare some notable things happening in your industry or in the world beforehand so that you are ready to shoot down any awkward conversation lulls before they happen. A word of caution: try not to choose an extremely polarizing topic. It’s best not to stir any tempers that will prematurely put an end to the connection.
Don’t forget to follow up!
Your conversations will have been pointless if you never get in touch with that person again! Make sure to ask for a business card and connect with people through LinkedIn. After a few days, send them a message or email reminding them who you are and what you discussed. Don’t ask for any favors in that initial reach out. Allow some time for your relationship to develop before mentioning that you would be interested in future opportunities. Amazing things can result from starting up conversations at networking events. You just need to be confident in yourself, your accomplishments, and your potential!
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